Running has always been part of Lesley Wilson’s life.
For many years, it was as a form of exercise for the Waimate woman, but four years ago, it became a form of therapy.
Now, she runs for Charlie.
On Sunday, Mrs Wilson will be one of the 120 people from across the world starting the Alps 2 Ocean Ultra marathon – running 323km from Mt Cook to Oamaru in seven days.
Her motivation is her son Charlie, who died at 10 weeks old, and she will be raising money for Heart Kids NZ, the Canterbury Neonatal Trust and NZ Down Syndrome Association.
Charlie was born on January 5, 2015.
During her pregnancy, Mrs Wilson and husband Scott knew Charlie had Down Syndrome and a congenital heart defect and, at three weeks old, he had his first open heart surgery.
They knew it was going to be a long road to recovery, but at seven weeks old, Charlie’s health started to deteriorate and he was scheduled for a second open heart surgery.
Still, they remained optimistic.
“Initially, Charlie seemed stable and recovering and my mother arrived from Scotland,” she said.
“I truly believed he was a gift and that somehow he’d just survive the odds.”
But after 10 weeks of fighting, on March 15, Charlie’s heart gave up.
He died in Mrs Wilson’s arms, with his father, big brother Finn, his “grannie Annie” and family friends by his side.
Mrs Wilson’s life changed forever as a result of the experience and she has made it her mission keep the memory of Charlie alive – and support the charities that fought with her for Charlie.
“We’d like to give back to the wonderful people who have supported us on this journey,” she said.
“We’d like to ensure funds are available for families in need like we were [and] we’d like to honour and keep alive the memory of our wee braveheart Charlie.”
The Alps 2 Ocean Ultra marathon starts on Sunday at Mt Cook and ends on March 2 in Oamaru.
Mrs Wilson is no stranger to long-distance running, having last year entered the 100km Naseby Water Race, but 323km will be the longest distance she has ever raced.
It had been a long 12 months of preparation for the event, she said.
A year of kit-buying, nutritional learning, calorie counting, early mornings, late nights, training in snow, frost, wind, rain and extreme heat, physio appointments, chaffing, blisters, fatigue, time away from family and travel had taken its toll.
“All that before even reaching the start line,” she said.
Mrs Wilson also had the added challenge of starting a new job this month – she is the chief financial officer at Oamaru Hospital.
Waitaki District Health Services (WDHS) chief executive officer Ruth Kibble, and the WDHS board, have brought the hospital’s financial operations back in-house, rather than outsourcing, to create financial efficiencies.
The aim is to foster financial growth and capital investment for the future of the hospital and its services in the community.
“I guess if I’ve learned anything it’s that life is out there, adventures await, we are only here a short time, so cram as much in as possible,” Mrs Wilson said.
“I didn’t expect it all to be happening in February. However, it’s a pretty good way to celebrate four years towards Charlie. I’m out there doing it all for the two of us.”